Today is my middle child’s twenty-first birthday. Only yesterday, I was dragging myself around the supermarket in tears because it was his first week of kindergarten and I felt like both of my arms were missing. Two kids now in school and I walked in circles for a few weeks until I figured out my new normal.
Today, this birthday boy is six weeks out from marrying a radiant and vibrant young lady from Canada. Collin has met his match in Jennifer. I’m in awe, once again, of how Jesus coordinates all the details and brings two people that are perfect for each other together at just the perfect time. Their devotion and their dedication are a glorious testament to the affection the Father has for his children.
It’s been a time of reflecting and reminiscing as we prepare for this big event. We cherish the sweetness of bringing our two families together and are grateful for the God-given gifts and talents that each one will arrive into their marriage with, to share with each other and with the world.
The past twenty-five years have been a blur since we brought his brother, our first child, home from the hospital. We couldn’t get over the fact that they let us put that innocent little creature into the back of our car and leave. We had no idea what we were doing – didn’t they know?
Four short years later, we felt like old pros when the soon to be groom arrived into the world. We’ve got this, we told ourselves. But no, he and Brett and Marina years later, they had us. They had our whole lives and our whole souls and every single bit of heart and mind space we had available.
Nobody clued us in, when we were newly expecting, that parenting would be so incredibly beautiful and so incredibly painful and everything in between. It’s been the ride of our lives and we’re trying hard to fix the broken pause button, so that the boys’ little sister won’t grow up and leave the nest too. But alas, it’s coming in the not so distant future, a reality we will celebrate and grieve at the same time.
When all three were younger, there wasn’t a second to ponder what life would be like when we weren’t running to school concerts and conferences, running to baseball and football practices, running to tournaments and games. There wasn’t much time to breath much less envision the future.
But every so often, in the midst of the crazy, something would occur that would trip an emotional connection deep inside me, an image or a string of words or a scene, that would cause time to stand still. A quick freeze-frame that became tattooed on my heart.
Like when I walked into our home for the very first time with Marina in my arms. Her baby picture had been up on our fridge and we’d been praying for her for months, but when I spotted Brett and then Collin finally seeing their sister in person, I didn’t think it was possible to observe so much love, wonder and tenderness on an eleven year old and seven year old boys’ face.
And when Marina was eight, she and I watched the movie,”The Nativity Story,” together. When the scene came that showed the angel Gabriel telling Mary that she was going to give birth to God’s son, Marina asked me if she would be an angel when she got to heaven. I told her no, that God already has many, many angels and that we just get to be ourselves with God in heaven. She replied,”maybe if I ask God, He will give me wings so I can fill in when all the other angels are busy.”
When Brett was a senior in high school, he had the delightful and unexpected surprise of being voted the Homecoming king by his classmates and teachers. Four years later, Collin did too.
Two nights before Collin’s Homecoming dance was the parade and then the bonfire at the football stadium. Collin and the Homecoming queen, Hayley, and the rest of the court were down on the field being introduced. Afterward, he and Hayley were to run across and be the first to light the fire.
What I had the pleasure of watching after their names were announced was Collin pointing over his head with both hands toward the enormous woodpile on the complete other side and then taking off in a full-throttled sprint. Hayley didn’t see him at first, but when she did, she took off running too. Soon after the rest of the court was running behind her and then like a slow motion movie, the full stadium of kids started emptying the bleachers from bottom to top and hundreds of teens were running in pursuit of them all, with Collin leading the entire pack.
When my kids are happy, my mom sensor beats bright. In that moment I felt Collin’s playful jubilance and bliss, and if joy were helium, my full heart would’ve lifted me right up to the moon.
Now that the future has arrived and I can see and taste it, I pray that Collin and Jenn and Brett and Abby and Marina experience life in all it’s up and down fullness. Each stage is unique and packed with potential. I’m thankful for the new but also treasure the inked memories of time gone by.
My message to you, Collin, on this special birthday – keep leading, keep learning, keep loving and never stop being in awe of the one who gave us life and who gave us His one and only. The one and only who sacrificed everything for us all. Keep pointing others, by your verve and your vitality, to the son.
Untitled song written by Collin Jacob Prather, 10/30/04, 7 years old
“All I wana do is look at you my lord, you are you are the master of everything.
You can’t eskap his love, you can’t eskap the wind from bloing, you just can’t eskap the lord.
My Jeses all I wana do is cry for you my lord my lord my lord you are pure love.”